Note: This column appears in the 12/13 issue of The Glendale Star, and the 12/14 issue of the Peoria Times
If this past Sunday was, in fact, the biggest game in almost a decade for the Arizona Cardinals, then let’s hope that they don’t react the same way this Sunday, which will definitely be the biggest game in almost a decade for the Arizona Cardinals.
Now to the hard part.
As good as he has been this season, the fact that Kurt Warner is the starting quarterback has been the elephant in the room. Warner has never been adept at taking care of the football, and if not turning the ball over has become a football cliché, then Kurt Warner obviously did not get the memo.
The Cardinals failed in every aspect of the game against the Seahawks. The defense was terrible, and could never manage to stop the bleeding. Special teams was, at best, a non-factor. And the rushing “attack” was on par with what it’s been for most of the season, which is to say that Edgerrin James was, yet again, nowhere to be found. That said, Kurt Warner’s five interceptions are what ultimately decided the game, and, more importantly, put the spotlight on the Cardinals’ Achilles Heel as they attempt to make a playoff push.
Anyone who has watched the Cardinals play this season cannot deny being impressed with Warner, yet can also not deny holding their breath every time he drops back to pass. With the exception of a ball he just threw up for grabs at the end of the first half, all of Warner’s interceptions on Sunday were terrible throws. They couldn’t be blamed on bad route running, tipped passes, or the sun in his eyes – they were overthrown, underthrown, badly thrown, or all of the above. Every pass Warner threw on Sunday seemed to hang in the air for twenty minutes, stubbornly biding its time knowing it would land in the waiting arms of the opposition.
And these are just the times when he was able to get off a pass. Let’s put it this way: When Kurt Warner gets sacked, I am shocked – shocked! – when he manages to hold onto the football. So it was a pleasure to see Warner retain possession during each of the five times he was sacked on Sunday, although the interceptions more than made up for it.
Unfortunately for the Cardinals, Kurt Warner is 37. The man is not changing. He obviously doesn’t want to turn the ball over, he just kind of does. As Dennis Green might say, “He is who we thought he was!” And what Kurt Warner is is a pretty good quarterback with a penchant for turning the ball over. So there.
I was confused! You guys wear red too!
Now that this reality has been exposed and thus, accepted, it’s the job of the rest of the team to outplay Warner’s weakness. If Warner throws a pick, the defense has to get it back. (Which, with the exception of Sunday, they’ve been able to do.) If Warner gets sacked and fumbles the ball away – and by “if” I mean “when” – then Steve Breaston can make up for it with a big return. If Warner has nobody to throw to because his two best receivers are either inactive or playing hurt, somebody should find Edgerrin James and let him know that the game started.
As the Cardinals attempt to win at least two of their final three games in their quest to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years, I’d prefer not to hear Ken Whisenhunt stress how the Cardinals cannot turn the ball over, which is exactly what he did on Sunday evening. No Ken – you WILL turn the ball over. Kurt Warner is your starting quarterback, and that’s kind of his thing. Instead, tell me about how the rest of the team is going to make up for it.
Because if the Cardinals want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to.
Edgerrin James: Because just standing there is almost as good as 3.5 yards per carry